Heartbreak in the Sunshine

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SJVB suffered an agonising loss in the semi finals against the eventual champions, Orlando A at the tournament of champions held over the New Year Weekend.

The team arrived in Orlando full of hope and determination brought about from the win at Al Wilayah, and a strong buildup through the back end of 2022.

The tournament started uncharacteristically slowly.
Early losses to Minnesota and New York Union had SJ on the back foot with those winnable games on paper putting the team under huge pressure.

The unforgiving 17 team marathon round robin tournament meant every game was crucial. With games to come against strong teams like Orlando A, Orlando B, United Stars of Toronto and Toronto North, only a drastic increase in form would guarantee qualification.

Thankfully this materialised. SJ went on to lose only one more game in the round robin stage, eventually qualifying for the quarter finals in 5th place

Notable victories were achieved over Orlando A and United Stars en route to the quarters.

Sunday 1st Jan 2023 was set to be an epic final day of the tournament. Lining up against New York Union, SJ started really fast and took them by surprise. Racing to an early unassailable lead taking the first game of a best of three 16-2.

New York came roaring back and won the second 11-9 in overtime. SJ took the third comfortably 16-6 to qualify for the semis. Orlando A, resurgent and backed by a partizan home crowd, lay in wait.

The semi started horribly for SJ. After 10 minutes, SJ went 7-1 down.After a slight change in tactic, SJ made less errors, and this caused Orlando to shake. 3 mins to go, and 13-10 down, SJ were back in it.

An epic final point ended with the score 13-12 with a spike from Imranali just missing the court. Orlando won 13-12.

This last gasp loss was very tough to take. The second game started with Orlando taking a lead. Despite best efforts Orlando held firm and took the second game to make the finals.

Qualifying in the top 4 is a barmoeter for how well this team has done. Proving themselves once again as one of the top traditional volleyball teams in the world, able to go toe-to-toe with the best.